Should You Give Out Free Samples?

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Whether or not to offer free product samples can be a huge decision – especially when you work in a salon that does tanning and/or hair, where freebies packets are especially prevalent. Weigh the pros and cons after hearing from these real tanning salon owners and then decide for yourself.

Giving away occasional samples has concrete benefits: One, samples make your clients happy (there’s that psychology factor!) and therefore more loyal to your salon. Two, samples provide an opportunity to obtain feedback from your clients about new product lines, which can save you the expense and frustration of overstocking products that your clientele won’t buy. “Because I’m a full-service salon, not only a tanning salon, I can’t afford to stock thousands of dollars in tanning products,” says Joanne Davido, owner of Bella Donna Salon, Ridgeway, Pennsylvania. “So when I receive new product samples, I give them to my best customers to try it out.” Customer responses help Davido determine which products she should stock.

Other salon owners, like Maureen Morrow, owner of Mystic Coffee & Tan, Port Orchard, Washington, use samples to ensure that clients are happy with their lotion selections before they invest in full-size retail bottles. Morrow provides sample cups of her retail lotions at no cost to clients. “We try to find out what type of lotion clients are looking for,” she says.

In order to prevent freebie fever among her clients, Morrow carefully tracks which products each client has sampled already. “The software we use allows us to keep track of the samples,” says Morrow. Each product sample has a code, and we enter the code in the client’s profile so that we can see what we’ve given away.” Morrow finds that this system boasts two benefits: First, the system tracks samples, which prevents clients from repeatedly receiving free samples of the products they like every single time. Second, the system allows for an easy retrieval of client’s preferences. “If a client says, ‘I like the product I tried last time I was here,’ we can look at her profile and find out which product it was.” says Morrow.

With regard to sampling, Greg Klesius, owner and president of Soakin’ Up the Rays, Paris, Tennessee, believes that salon owners should implement incentive or bonus programs for first-time clients. Tanning is a result-driven service; if a client doesn’t feel she’s achieved a deep enough tan, she’ll go elsewhere. Sampling programs allow you to maximize results for your clients. “A program could offer each new client a free lotion sample with her first session, or a free bottle of lotion with the purchase of her first tanning package,” says Klesius. “The salon owners who use samples to their benefit also realize that encouraging a client to use lotion from day one increases the chance that she’ll become a die-hard lotion user.” –Inga Hansen

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